Brian Laudrup: Perfect XI

The Danish maestro picks his Perfect XI - including a certain Michael...

Goalkeeper
Peter Schmeichel
The best ever. Peter’s charisma and character could change the game. His spirit spread to the rest of the team. Strong in the air, great reflexes and brilliant in one-on-ones. A true winner.

Right-back
Stefan Reuter

My Bayern Munich team-mate is one of the most dedicated players I ever met. Extremely fast and athletic, even as right-back, he played a vital attacking role and scored goals. He was also great in one-on-ones – in attack and defence.

Centre-back
Richard Gough
A true leader and real warrior, who led by example and looked after his team-mates. Also a great finisher from set pieces because he really attacked the ball. He scored a lot, and had the bruises and scars to prove it. The most professional player I ever met, which gave him a long career.

Centre-back
Franco Baresi
A legend. A modern defender and unique in his day as a great ball-playing defender. Very elegant, he read the game superbly, had great speed and took a fabulous free-kick.

Left-back
Paolo Maldini
Another legend, and still going strong, he simply never has a bad match. Very difficult to play against, a sublime passer and he’s scored a lot of goals too. Has an incredible physique and is the ultimate role-model. He’ll go down in the history books as perhaps the best left-back ever.

Right-midfield
Paul Gascoigne

I played with him at Rangers and in his prime he was one of the best players in the world. He glided with the ball in a way that made him virtually untouchable for opponents and he was a match-winner, who had great technique when striking the ball. He was also a great entertainer – on and off the pitch! A tremendous natural talent.

Defensive-midfield
Marcel Desailly

Definitely the hardest player to come up against – it was nearly impossible to get past him because, for a player of his physique, he had incredible balance. It was always good to have him on your team, because he did the work of three men. He was so good that he filled his offensive players with confidence. You knew, with him on the pitch, you’d never get caught on the counter-attack.

Left-midfield
Stefan Effenberg

Some felt he was arrogant, and perhaps he was, but the presence of Bayern’s number 10 always gave the team a big boost. A powerful attacker with a great engine, he always took responsibility and could win a game for you on his own. If you got a penalty two minutes before the end you knew who would take it. He had great defensive ability too.

Attacking-midfield
Michael Laudrup

My brother started as an attacker but became an elegant attacking midfielder, perhaps the most complete there has ever been. His vision, speed of thought and passing were on a different level; he always knew what was going to happen before anybody else did. If anyone had a ‘football brain’, it was him.

Forward
Gabriel Batistuta

I was in a state of shock after my first training session with him at Fiorentina... he was terrible! But someone on the staff told me to wait until he got back into shape. I did and discovered a clinical finisher. He was merciless in front of goal and as strong as an ox. You simply couldn’t take the ball off him.

Forward
Gianfranco Zola

‘The magician’ did things with the ball I’ve never seen before or since. Had brilliant technique and incredible balance, almost a carbon copy of Maradona, with whom he played at Napoli. His free-kicks were extraordinary. A true artist, who could show you things you didn’t know about the game, and the perfect foil for a big, s�trong striker.

Manager
Walter Smith

I have had many good managers but Walter’s man-management was incredible: he was the type of manager you wanted to play for. He had several big egos, like Ally McCoist and Gazza, in one team but still managed to hold everything together.

Substitutes

Andy Goram
A sublime keeper, who had quick reflexes. A great motivator who was always at his best for big games.

Jurgen Kohler
A man-marker of the best and worst kind; even in training he’d advise you not to try to challenge him. A truly terrifying player.

Dejan Savicevic
They called him Il Genio, and he was definitely Berlusconi’s favourite, if not quite Capello’s. A genius and a perfect number 10, a bit like Zlatan Ibrahimovic today. His left foot was out of this world.

Mark Hateley
A classic British striker – I had a brilliant partnership with him. Great heading, a good left foot and impossible to stop. Typically, he would play the ball to me, I’d break down the wing and find him in front of goal. A great recipe.

From the March 2008 issue of FFT

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